If You Want to Escape Washington, Mr. President, Let Us Help You!
Sometimes I wonder if I harp on the president’s vacations too much. But apparently I’m not the only one alternating irked and fascinated by the commander-in-chief’s regular getaways as economic hard times persist.
As readers of Campaign Spot know, I’m reading Jodi Kantor’s The Obamas, and I’m doing my best to not quote it in every blog post. As I note, Kantor is a New York Times correspondent and I suspect began this project quite sympathetic to the Obamas. But she’s a diligent enough reporter to include everything she finds, including anecdotes and angles that are distinctly unflattering to the first couple and White House staffers.
You may come out of the book a bigger fan of Michelle Obama if you weren’t already. If you think Barack Obama was epically overhyped from the moment he appeared on the national stage, well . . . there are a few signals that maybe Michelle Obama, for as much as she loves her husband, shares the sentiment. Page 187:
“Maybe one day, he will do something to warrant all of this attention,” Michelle whispered to Jeff Zeleny, a reporter, as the new senator walked through the U.S. Capitol for the first time, trailed by a large entourage.
Anyway, one of the periodic themes in The Obamas is the First Couple’s recurring desire to escape Washington; their sense that they’ve somehow been trapped in an endlessly scrutinized, endlessly criticized life in which none of the president’s grand ambitions are ever quite realized, and nothing has turned out as they envisioned. I had noticed this tic on Obamas technically-not-campaign-rallies across the country since 2009. Inevitably, he tells the usually-adoring throngs how great it feels to be out of Washington.
Look, pal, if you hate being in Washington, don’t run for president. That is where the job is. The job involves a steady diet of hard decisions that will pit favored political allies against public opinion. It will involve endless wrangling on Capitol Hill. It will involve moments where you’ll have to decide if the half the loaf is worth taking, or whether it’s worth the risk of blowing up the whole deal to get 55 percent of the loaf. If you don’t like this stuff, don’t spend two years telling us how much we need you in that job.
Anyway, the president’s persistent desire to escape is not going unnoticed by swing voters, according to Paul Bedard:
Blue collar Democratic voters, stuck taking depressing “staycations” because they can’t afford gas and hotels, are resentful of the first family’s 17 lavish vacations around the world and don’t want their tax dollars paying for the Obamas’ holidays, according to a new analysis of swing voters.
“They view everything through their own personal situation and if they can’t afford to do it, they can’t enjoy it, they don’t like Obama using their tax dollars to benefit himself,” said pollster John McLaughlin. “In this case, they see him as out of touch. While they are struggling he’s not sharing in that struggle and he’s basically doing what they can’t do on their tax dollars,” added the GOP pollster.
He and several other top-tier Republican pollsters, organized by Resurgent Republic, traveled to 11 battleground states to host focus groups of independent and swing voters, mostly Democrats, who voted for President Obama in 2008 but who are now on the fence. McLaughlin handled blue collar and Catholic voters in Pittsburgh on April 3 and Cleveland on March 20. He found that they are very depressed about the economy and feel that their tax dollars are being sucked up by both the rich and those living on government assistance. During the focus group discussions about debt and spending cuts, many in his group volunteered criticism of the presidential vacations as something that should be cut.
Among the lines McLaughlin wrote down was one from a Democratic woman who said, “Michelle Obama spends $1 million to take the kids to Hawaii,” and another who said, “President Obama was the only president to take so many trips.” The theme, said McLaughlin, is that the first family “is out of touch” with working class voters.
By the way, in the Kantor book, everyone in the West Wing knew that Michelle Obama’s trip to Spain — you know, the one that cost taxpayers at least $467,585 — would be a political disaster, but . . . the trip went on anyway.
The precedent of judging a president for his vacations while the country endures crisis is . . . well-established, as Ann Althouse reminds us (language warning).